Delimitation Kashmir
People in queues at a polling station in J&K's Ganderbal district.Reuters

The recent debate on the possible delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir has made the people of the state feel uncertain about its repercussions. Many Kashmiris currently believe that they are secure due to the legal suspension on delimitation.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under the Governor's rule since June 2018 after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled out of coalition government with Mehbooba Mufti-led People's Democratic Party (PDP).

On December 19, 2018, the state was brought under President's rule. As the rule provides legislative authority vested to the Governor, the suspension on delimitation could be overturned.

The last delimitation on a provisional basis in J&K was ordered by Governor Jagmohan in 1993. The state was divided into 87 Assembly constituencies.

While there should have been one in 2005, the Farooq Abdullah government, by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Representative of People Act in 2002 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, froze delimitation in the state till 2026.

This freeze was argued to be imposed so that the people of Jammu and Kashmir could be brought at par with the rest of the country.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik persistently argues that section 47 of the Constitution need to be amended with reservations at the forefront. Through reservation to Scheduled Tribes, including Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddis and Sippis, the composition of the Assembly is also expected to change. They form 11 per cent of the population in the state.

As this redrawing exercise will affect the size of the Assembly seat shares of Jammu due to the regional disparity between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions and Kashmir known to boycott the assembly polls, political experts believe that this may pave way for the BJP to expand in the state.

With reports of Home Minister Amit Shah having had a closed-door meeting with the J&K Governor as well as Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Rajiv Jain and Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, it is believed that the setting up of the Delimitation Commission is on the forefront.

Data released by the Ministry of Home Affair highlighted the disparities in the percentage of population growth between the three regions. According to data, Kashmir Valley (8,639 sq. miles) has a population of 53 lakh (2011 census), Jammu (12,378 sq miles) has a population of 69.1 Lakh and Ladakh region 33,554 sq miles) has a population of 2.9 lakh. The state has a total population of 1.25 crore.

The population has grown at a rate of 23.64 per cent in the state. Kashmir witness a double in its numbers with around 1,76,673 live births reported in 2011 as compared to the 85,157 live births in 2001.

According to an analysis report by Chennai based Centre for Policy Studies, the abrupt rise is restricted only to births in the Valley. "In the Jammu region, the number of births has increased by only 19.3 per cent, which is somewhat less than the rise in population of that region. In Ladakh, the number of births has declined by nearly a third," the report said.